Goltz against cerebral localization: Methodology and experimental practices

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In the late 19th century, physiologists such as David Ferrier, Eduard Hitzig, and Hermann Munk argued that cerebral brain functions are localized in discrete structures. By the early 20th century, this became the dominant position. However, another prominent physiologist, Friedrich Goltz, rejected theories of cerebral localization and argued against these physiologists until his death in 1902. I argue in this paper that previous historical accounts have failed to comprehend why Goltz rejected cerebral localization. I show that Goltz adhered to a falsificationist methodology, and I reconstruct how he designed his experiments and weighted different kinds of evidence. I then draw on the exploratory experimentation literature from recent philosophy of science to trace one root of the debate to differences in how the German localizers designed their experiments and reasoned about evidence. While Goltz designed his experiments to test hypotheses about the functions of predetermined cerebral structures, the localizers explored new functions and structures in the process of constructing new theories. I argue that the localizers relied on untested background conjectures to justify their inferences about functional organization. These background conjectures collapsed a distinction between phenomena they produced direct evidence for (localized symptoms) and what they reached conclusions about (localized functions).
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